EVERYWHERE we turn we are bewildered by the fire of
1847. Even the record of the civil organization of
the townships cannot be found. It is known, however,
that Freedom was one of the first of the five townships
organized in the territory now composing Henry county;
that it, the Napoleon township, in 1840, included nearly,
if not all the said territory north of the Maumee River
together with all the Fulton county, which was organized
in 1850. At that time, with all of its territory, it
had a population of only one hundred and five. By
the organization of Fulton county, there was left to
Freedom township not even the originally surveyed
territory - two tiers of sections having been taken from
the north and given to Fulton county; and there is now
left to Freedom township but twenty-four sections of land.
Notwithstanding this, the township has had a wonderful
growth both in population and valuation. In 1850 it
contained four hundred and sixty souls, and the taxable
valuation of the property amounted to $27,602. In
1860 the population, with greatly diminished territory,
was four hundred and fifty and the valuation $71,697.
In 1870 the population was eight hundred and twelve, and
the valuation of land $85,279. In 1880 the census
showed twelve hundred and thirty-five population, and the
land was valued for taxation at $230,480.
The township is situated in the northern part of Henry
county. It bounded on the north by Fulton county, on the
east by Liberty township, on the south by Napoleon
township and on the west by Ridgeville township. The
topography is that in common with the balance of the
county, level, and the soil exceedingly good and fertile.
The township is devoid of waterways, with the exception of
three small creeks, the largest being Napoleon Creek and
Oberhaus Creek. These traverse nearly the whole
width of the township. Through the southwest corner
of the township runs the bed of the defunct Coldwater and
The early settlers of this section were few; not more
than a score lived in the township prior to 1860; among
those who did live in this part of the county, from 1838
to 1850, may be mentioned Daniel Shinaman, John Miller,
Samuel and Lewis Eckhart, John Sorrick, John Knapp,
Harmon Kline, junior and senior, Conrad Clay, George
Struble, John Harmon and Benjamin Holler.
The first school house ever erected in this
township was one of unhewed logs, a very primitive and
small building. It stood in what is now section
twenty-eight. Daniel Shinaman, John Harmon,
Benjamin Holler and Harmon Kline were the
The first church was a United Brethren. It was
built in 1852, or thereabouts, and also stood in section
twenty-eight. Here the settlers from far and near
would congregate on Sabbath day and listen to the Word of
God interpreted by George Struble.
The township is, as far as is possible to learn, devoid
of many of those stirring incidents which make the life of
the settler exciting, and for this reason facts of record
can only be dealt with, "pleasing incidents of frontier
life" will be conspicuous by their absence. And we
will proceed to what the township was after the year 1860;
not that it was civilized by this time, but because the
facts are within our grasp.
From 1860 up to the present time there has been an
influx of Germans to this county, and especially to
Freedom township. To this frugal people may be given
a great deal of the credit of converting a wilderness into
a garden for the reason that they were not choice as to
the kind of land Uncle Sam gave them, and whether a swamp
or ridge it was the same to them and they went to work.
Now Freedom township is a model of well-kept farms; now
there are six fine school-houses, a couple of churches and
scores of brick dwellings. The first one was built
by Harmon Kline and the others followed thick and
fast, and now as one rides through the county, a palatial
brick residence, well kept grounds - a sure sing of thrift
and wealth - is an ordinary sight.
Although this township is not a locality for pioneer
reminiscences it has a history which entitles it to the
name of the "dark and bloody ground of Henry county,"
three persons having been murdered by the pretended
friends of the victims, for the sole purpose of gain.
The Murder of W. W. Treadwell - On July
14, 1864, Math. Bowen while walking through the
woods near what was known as the little Red School-house,
suddenly came upon a body of a man. The body had
evidently lain for some time as the birds of prey, and
decomposition, had so disfigured the remains that
identification was well-nigh impossible. Two
bullet-holes were found in the skull, the bullet evidently
entering just back of the right ear, and coming out above
the right eye. The right side of the head was also
beaten with a club, which was found near by. On his
person was found a number of trifles, together with an
upper set of false teeth, on a heavy gold plate; seven
dollars in bills and some eatables. Some weeks later
a report came from Adrian, Mich., saying that two men had
escaped from the jail there. The description of one
of the men tallied with that of the murdered man.
Investigation was at once begun, and it was learned that
the name of the murdered man was W. W. Treadwell,
formerly a banker of Hudson, Mich., who had been confined
in the Adrian jail for operations not exactly legitimate.
The man with whom he escaped was incarcerated for horse
stealing. His name was John Crowell, and he
was subsequently arrested in Sandusky, tried and bound
over, and on the 10th of May, 1865, his trial begun with
Hon. A. S. Latty on the bench. The facts
disclosed were as follows: Treadwell having
secured large loans from other banks, absconded, was
arrested in Mansfield, O., taken back, tried, convicted,
and remanded in jail to await sentence. Crowell
was arrested in Erie county, this State, for stealing
horses in Michigan, tried and convicted at the same term
of court as Treadwell was, and also remanded.
In jail they were put together, and at five o'clock on the
1st of July escaped. Identification of the two men
now became an easy matter; they traveled through the
northern part of the county inquiring for lost cattle.
The club now became in important factor, and every witness
pointed it out as being carried by Crowell.
The chain of evidence was quickly woven around him.
The identification of Treadwell was established
beyond a doubt. The object of the crime was $900 in
the possession of Treadwell. The sum having
been given to him by his wife shortly before his escape.
It was all in $100 bills, and the most of them upon the
bank of Rochester. One of these Rochester bills was
found upon Crowell.
On Monday, May 15, 1865, the case was given to the
jury; an hour later, came the verdict of "guilty." A
motion for a new trial was made but denied. Judge
Latty then sentenced Crowell to be hanged on
Friday, the 11th of July, 1865.
The execution was under the direction and charge of
O. E. Barnes, who was then sheriff. While making
preparations for the execution, and even upon the
scaffold, the prisoner was the most collected of all
present. Upon the scaffold the sheriff asked him if
he had anything to say before the sentence of the court
was executed, and he replied, "No sir, I am guilty."
The sheriff asked him if he wished it understood that he
was guilty of the crime for which he stood condemned.
Crowell replied slowly and distinctly, "Yes sir, my
punishment is just." He then knelt with his
spiritual adviser, Father Carroll, after which the
pinioning, placing of the cap, etc., was proceeded with,
and all the time Crowell showed the least emotion
of any present. At sixteen minutes before 1 P.M.,
the trap was sprung, and John Crowell had expiated
The Murder of George Williams and Wife.
The second murder was the one of George Williams
and wife, by Wesley Johnson, on October 23,
1883, the details of which are as horrible as any instance
of the kind in the State.
On the evening of October 25, 1883, Addison Crew,
a farmer living near the farm of George Williams,
had occasion to go to the Williams' place. On
first going to the barn his eye met a ghastly sight.
There, upon the floor he saw the lifeless body of
George Williams, with head split open, and throat cut
from ear to ear. He raised a cry and with several
others went to the house, where, upon the floor of their
sleeping room, lay the body of George Williams's
wife, terribly mutilated. Upon the bed was a nearly
famished infant. From the state of the bodies it was
supposed that they had lain in this state for several
days. Suspicion immediately fell upon Wesley
Johnson, a young man in the employ of John
Williams, because of his behavior, and the hour he
retired two or three nights previously. He was
arrested but stoutly maintained his innocence. But
proof was not lacking, and at the preliminary examination,
there was proof enough to bind him over. His trial
began in January, 1884, and long will it be remembered as
the most exciting trial ever witnessed in the county, and
during the whole trial, Johnson's demeanor was that
of a statue, showing no emotion or feeling. When, on
the evening of February 12, 1884, the jury brought in a
verdict of "guilty," there was a general "amen."
The case was conducted for the State by prosecuting
attorney R. W. Cahill and J. M. Haag; for
the defense Messrs. Martin Knupp and William H.
Hubbard. Judge J. J. Moore presided. He
was sentence on the 16th of February to be hanged on the
29th of May, 1884.
The execution was conducted by Frederick Aller,
then sheriff, and took place in the jail. With the
same nerve that marked Crowell, Johnson displayed,
he ascending the scaffold with the same fearless step.
When the sheriff asked if his punishment was just, he
answered "yes." At 10 A.M. the trap was sprung, and
Johnson's soul was dangling in the balance, and his
body between heaven and earth.